16 Jun Famous Landmarks that almost didn’t survive WWII

 When discussing World War II and its lasting impact on international populations and politics the focus is, rightly, on the human cost of the conflict. Six years of war claimed the lives of over 72,000,000 soldiers and civilians worldwide, and some regions have never regained the prosperity they enjoyed before the battles. Every aspect of society was altered by the massive conflict, which saw the birth America as a superpower, the fall of several empires, the rise of the Soviet Union, and the introduction of some of the most destructive weapons the world has ever seen. During the chaotic war years when the preservation of human life took precedence over all else, innumerable works of art and architecture fell victim to the astounding destruction. Mystery continues to surround the fate of some treasures, including Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael, and the infamous lost Amber Room of the Czars. Though teams of historians and experts have devoted years to finding stolen works, repairing damaged décor, and protecting sites against future damage, it is an imperfect science. As ISIS’ recent destruction of irreplaceable historic sites across Iraq and Syria has taught us, sometimes the survival of iconic buildings and structures is left entirely to the whim of occupying forces. Though it may be easy to despair for the art and history of the Mideast during the current conflicts, it is important to remember that less than 100 years ago the treasures of...

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25 Feb Like a Local

Firenze! For anyone visiting Italy, it’s impossible to resist the appeal. You may even feel like you’re becoming Italian! To complete the immersion, why not hang with the locals in this iconic Renaissance capital? Here are our picks for the best local Florence haunts:   Le Cascine ParkOriginally owned by the Medici family (at one time the wealthiest family in Europe) Florence’s largest park was once used for game hunting and later, to grow fruit and vegetables. Today it’s a popular local spot for jogging, bike riding, bird watching, lazing around with friends or playing a friendly game of soccer. It’s also home to Le Pavoniere, an outdoor aquatic centre that transforms by night into a poolside bar and restaurant, serving up cocktails, pizzas and live music.   Crazy Bowling. So it doesn’t sound classically Italian, but you are sure to find lots of Fiorentini in this American-style bowling alley, just a short bus ride from Florence’s historic city centre. But’s it’s not just bowling - there are also arcade games, billiards, a casino and eateries. Catch tram 1 from outside Florence’s central train station, Firenze Santa Maria Novella, to the Nenni–Torregalli stop.   Dancing spots and discotecas Late night dancing is a popular pursuit in Florence and there are tons of great venues for discos and live music, many of them in ancient, underground cellars. Stalwarts for the younger crowd and lovers of house music include Tenax, Club TwentyOne and Space Electronic. Also check out Flò Lounge Bar, an...

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27 Oct Tuscan Treat

[caption id="attachment_2306" align="alignnone" width="660"] Cheers to chianti![/caption] Wine can be a snob's paradise. High priced bottles and eloquent labels elicit importance and supposedly good taste. At a recent wine tasting I tried five reds from around the world, all Cabernet Sauvignons. It was a blind tasting. We didn’t know the label or any information until all wines were tried. At the event’s end we compared rankings with fellow tasters. The $9.99 bottle from a very young cultivation of grapes outside of Florence bested the $50 bottle from a 2006 vintage (supposedly a snobs favorite year for wine). Point being, no label or fancy cork can fool your tongue. It’s your palate, your preference. Italy is second to France in producing what many call good wine. And what region covers the gamut of taste, color and price better than Chianti. Region! Region! Region! Italy is a small country with dozens of types of wine. With each wine unique and only (legally) made in specific areas spanning no more than a few miles each, knowing where to go is important. Lets narrow it down to make your day of tasting productive and enjoyable. Know where you are. And know the history of the area. You have the world. And from there the continent of Europe, then Italy. In Italy, to the west, is a region called Tuscany (kind of like saying, “Out in the Southwest United States”). And within Tuscany small cities like Florence and Sienna were founded....

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20 Jun Florence: Open your mouth and your mind

[caption id="attachment_2182" align="alignnone" width="660"] Helloooooo paradise![/caption] I have several initial, unfettered, pure thoughts on being in Florence for 4 days: The clean streets are completely walkable giving off an "old Europe" charm. So much cheap wine and natural, fresh, local, great-tasting food! Have you ever ordered macaroni and cheese? Pasta and meat sauce? I'm sure you have. Order it in Florence, Italy and a party explodes in your mouth. Taste buds dance all day long here. Tourists abound, sure. But take a side street and it's all Italian language. Order a coffee in broken Italian (or no Italian at all, just using your hands!) and you're transported to real-life Italy. Art is EVERYWHERE. Yesterday I went to an art and ceramic restoration business. 4th generation family. After walking the aisles of impressive 13/14/15/16th century paintings and works getting touched up, I accidently hit a gold-colored pointed dome-like structure needing some fixing (it rests atop a church usually, but is only 8 feet tall). I apologized to Tomasso, the owner's son, for knocking it. "Oh, no harm done," he said casually. "But it is a work by Michelangelo."  When Florentines speak, they sing. Hands gyrate and sway and cut the air like a butcher's knife to a slab of beef on Via della Cernaia. Be ready to speak with your hands. Conclusion: Florence is a travelers paradise. And for a Panroamers perspective of Florence, be sure to follow Kelly's blog here. Tony Amante Schepers...

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